In October, Intercepts wrote about the F-117 Nighthawk and how recent photos had shown the stealth jet flying from Tonopah Test Range in Nevada — despite the plane having been retired in 2008.
Given the secretive history of the Nighthawk, speculation immediately arose as to what the jets could be doing. General consensus was that the jet was doing testing, although on what and for what purpose was up in the air.
But now, through hard work and deep, investigative reporting (read: we asked the Air Force), Intercepts can now reveal what the F-117 is doing post-retirement:
Here’s the deal, according to the Air Force. When the Nighthawk was retired, it was mandated that the jet be kept in “Type 1000” storage. Frequent Intercepts readers may recall discussion earlier this year about putting the A-10 into Type 1000 storage, and while that plan died on the vine, it did give us this handy definition of what it means:
Aircraft in Type 1000 storage are to be maintained until recalled to active service, should the need arise. Type 1000 aircraft are termed inviolate; meaning they have a high potential to return to flying status and no parts may be removed from them. These aircraft are ‘re-preserved’ every four years.
Also of note, it can take ’30-120 days depending upon how long the aircraft has been in Type 1000 storage for it to become flyable again,’ according to [an Air Force] spokesperson.
In simpler terms, keeping a jet in Type 1000 storage means the plane can be activated relatively quickly in case of an emergency.
How do you know that the preserved planes are being kept in such a way that they can be quickly re-activated? After all, the worst case scenario would be to need a plane, go to get it ready, and discover the way it was stored has actually rendered it unusable.
In the case of the the Nighthawks, you take them out from time to time in order to prove that they are still viable. The official, full statement from the service:
Since its retirement from active flying status in 2008, the Air Force’s cadre of F-117 Nighthawks have been maintained at their original, climate-friendly hangars at the Tonopah Test Range Airport in Nevada. Given the cost of establishing secure storage facilities at Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC at Davis-Monthan AFB), the Air Force chose instead to store the retired F-117s at the pre-existing secure facilities at Tonopah Test Range.
Per Congressional direction within the FY07 National Defense Authorization Act the aircraft were placed in Type 1000, flyable storage for potential recall to future service. In order to confirm the effectiveness of the flyable storage program, some F-117 aircraft are occasionally flown.
And there you have it. The F-117 Nighthawk is still retired. It’s just staying busy into its golden years.
Disappointed it’s not something more exciting? We feel you. Luckily, one Intercepts reporter spent a day at Holloman AFB in New Mexico in late October, which is home to a retired F-117 that is proudly on display. Here are a few shots to soothe your disappointment.
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